Thursday, February 7, 2008

About Some Passions & Patient Capitalism

So as I talked about some learnt wisdom in the last post, here's some record of the talk that inspired me to the same. It's about Jacqueline Novogratz and her out-of-the-box philanthropy efforts, which emphasizes sustainable bottom-up solutions over traditional top-down aids. I quote her - "Investing 20,000,000 to create 20,000 jobs" - an accomplishment that seems like a consummate example of created "Wealth Of Nation" for an underdeveloped country in Africa.

She has just redefined the way we approach to drown out poverty all around - with a sustainable model of charity. She has founded the
Acumen Fund, which is more than just a VC - offering not just money, but also infrastructure and management expertise, by investing in fledgling companies and organizations that bring critical products and services to the world’s poor.

How Acumen Fund works.
Photo courtesy of Acumen Fund
Her idea is not just about how to distribute wealth, it's about how to empower, and provide the wherewithal to the less-privileged to our comrades in the developing countries. It's about sprouting up novel opportunities for their future, instead of throwing goods and money in their general direction. In this TED presentation she walked along with the following message:
  • That dignity is more important to the human spirit than wealth.
  • That when people earn dignity they gain choices - something fundamental to any beings prosperity.
  • That Traditional charity and aid are not going to solve the problems of poverty.
  • That the markets alone also cannot solve the problems of poverty. (Someone is needed for new market access and contacts, strategic decisions, philanthropic management roles etc)
She spent few years of her life in the deep ghetto of Western Africa, starting out among few African prostitutes who were at the mercy of some uncertain charity business of selling donuts to earn their livelihood 50 cents a day. Jacqueline instead encouraged an independent business for these women, setting example by selling donuts and chips herself - which with some struggle soon brought the realization among the women too to start selling their own and they started listening to the marketplace - it was them who really knew their community best. They came out with new products and a real bakery and soon started earning 3-4 times than the national average...And thus was the obliteration of poverty from within the mindsets of these Kenyan women.

An old adage states that material poverty can't easily be eliminated without first reducing spiritual poverty, by increasing hope. One successful project in their own backyard gives people the hope to build up the courage to try something different. Acumen's endeavors ranges from malaria-preventing bed nets in Tanzania to a low-cost mortgage program in Pakistan to harnessing drip-irrigation systems in India... offering new frontiers of opportunity that reflects strong cultural sensitivity. Its about, in her own words "the humility to start listening to the people"...

Have a look at her TED presentation above yourself. Someday I wish to be a part of at least a trifle order of social change of this sort...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

On Some EARly Lessons.

Few lessons we learn at times from a hard knock of simplicity. Just because we choose to ignore them more too often - as we step upon the strides of mundane complexity, solving "real" problems. A morbid dichotomy isn't it?

Learn to Listen, is probably one of them I had stumbled upon early. We listen, but only till the ears - in all but few occaisons. In early college years I started out to listen tough to the inside of people I met - for few minutes to long years, but this is something I find not that practice-and-perfect type lessons.

That apart, at times we also learn some raw wisdoms on our own, but before we can discern and articulate them, an imposing blindness of obvious again shrinks us onto our ordinary closed thoughts. I distantly felt this today again while watching the experiences of this noble Lady - Jacqueline Novogratz and her exemplary efforts - which I'll talk about in the next post. These constructs of opinion on Listening were frozen deep within some obscure thoughts of mine, which she draws upon here rather forthrightly:

...That Listening is not only about waiting with a patient open ear, but it's also about learning how better to ask questions. That some people are so used to not being posed questions that when we do it to them - they are really not sure that we want to know the truth - and its really hard for them to say what they mean...

...And then we would probably blame them for being ignorant, obtuse or whatever, while they would be left in discomfort at being "asked" about something...
However what concerns me further is that people often ARE driven by this powerful tug of silent observation, but I feel their sense of "ordinary" usually shoves these thoughts off into the Trash. And as they bury their doubts and questions, they sow seeds of ill skepticism - within and outside.

And then we face lack of understanding between men of dissimilar orders, or background or of traits. We witness departed interests, differences in opinions, then conflicts and even wars...
Interpersonal Expectations can't fulfill onto themselves, really.

Image Courtesy: Flickr